AUSTIN — This session of the Texas Legislature is straight out of Elvis.They just finished the one for the money. Now comes No. 2 for the show.After a day of patting itself on the back for behaving civilly and solving problems for a change, the Lege now draws the long knives to begin special-session work on new district maps and red meat for 2013 campaigns.But first, a few words about the regular session, a rare flurry of productivity for a Legislature that often accomplishes little besdes keeping 181 wackobirds off the streets.Nine-term state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, said: “I’m very proud. We found a group of Democrats and Republicans who came here to govern and to look at the big picture of what’s best for Texas.”For a candid version, we turn to another nine-term old hand, state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth.“This was the least harmful session in over a decade,” Burnam said with a grin.“But the special session may turn that around.”Blessed with wealth from excess oil and gas revenues, the Legislature put money back into a less test-crazed education system and will give voters a chance to reinvest the pocket-money “rainy day” fund on water projects for dry days ahead.But focusing on water meant the Lege gave up early on highway projects.“We are so far behind,” Burnam said, “that we will have significant gridlock in North Texas.”From the Republican side, state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, worried that bad roads mean bad news for Texas’ business success.“It’s politically difficult to put highway funding ahead of schoolchildren and, say, nursing homes,” he said. “The political will wasn’t there.”Much of the House chatter on the final day involved some Tea Party-elected freshmen in their 20s and 30s, three from north Tarrant County. Elected as outsiders, they joined a zealot faction and stayed that way.State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, 29, R-Bedford, a first-time candidate who became a target for barbs for both his bombast and his inexperience, was leading in a Texas Tribune online “10 worst” poll.Tea Party classmate Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, defended Stickland.“He may be labeled one of the ‘10 worst,’ and they may say he didn’t get anything done, but he stopped a lot of legislation,” Springer said.“Coming here just to pass legislation isn’t a good thing.”State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, a Ron Paul supporter, often led the faction.“The freshmen didn’t just sit down and shut up like some wanted,” Simpson said.“When they did speak out, they didn’t always do it the right way. But neither did the senior members.”A special session might redefine worst.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy